Each Fall, the American University's Center for Media & Social Impact and the Washington College of Law's Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law host the Human Rights Film Series, showcasing the power of film to educate and advocate about human rights.
2013's Series included "Dirty Wars," "Valentine Road," "Gideon's Army," and "The Act of Killing."
It's the dirty little secret of the War on Terror: all bets are off, and almost anything goes. We have fundamentally changed the rules of the game and the rules of engagement. Prior to 9/11, it was customary for America to sound a formal declaration of war on a given country before attacking. Today drone strikes, night raids, and U.S. Government–condoned torture occur in hidden corners across the globe,generating unprecedented civilian casualties. Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill traces the rise of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the most secret and elite fighting force in U.S. history, exposing covert operations carried out by men who do not exist on paper and will never appear before Congress. No target is off-limits for the JSOC "kill list," even if the person is a U.S. citizen.
On February 12, 2008, in Oxnard, California, eighth-grade student Brandon McInerney shot his classmate Larry King twice in the back of the head during first period. When Larry died two days later, his murder shocked the nation. Was this a hate crime, one perpetrated by a budding neo-Nazi whose masculinity was threatened by an effeminate gay kid who may have had a crush on him? Or was there even more to it? Looking beyond all the copious news coverage of this tragic event, Valentine Road tells the story of two victims: the deceased and the murderer. With keen insight, the film connects the human wreckage of Larry's and Brandon's troubled lives-both physically abused, both from broken homes, and both searching for a sense of belonging.
Gideon's Army follows the personal stories of Travis Williams, Brandy Alexander and June Hardwick, three young public defenders who are part of a small group of idealistic lawyers in the Deep South challenging the assumptions that drive a criminal justice system strained to the breaking point. Backed by mentor Jonathan "Rap" Rapping, a charismatic leader who heads the Southern Public Defender Training Center (now known as Gideon's Promise), they struggle against long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads so common that even the most committed often give up in their first year. Nearly 50 years since the landmark Supreme Court ruling Gideon v. Wainwright that established the right to counsel, can these courageous lawyers revolutionize the way America thinks about indigent defense and make "justice for all" a reality?
When the Government of Indonesia was overthrown by the military in 1965, Anwar Congo and his friends were promoted from small-time gangsters who sold movie theatre tickets on the black market to death squad leaders. They helped the army kill more than one million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese, and intellectuals in less than a year. As the executioner for the most notorious death squad in his city, Anwar himself killed hundreds of people with his own hands. Today, Anwar is revered as a founding father of a right-wing paramilitary organization that grew out of the death squads. The organization is so powerful that its leaders include government ministers, and they are happy to boast about everything from corruption and election rigging to acts of genocide. The Act of Killing is a journey into the memories and imaginations of the perpetrators, offering insight into the minds of mass killers. And The Act of Killing is a nightmarish vision of a frighteningly banal culture of impunity in which killers can joke about crimes against humanity on television chat shows, and celebrate moral disaster with the ease and grace of a soft shoe dance number.